These destinations have turned on cruise control.
As fun and relaxing as a cruise ship might be for passengers, that carefree vibe isn’t always shared by the town or city in which the ship docks. Several thousand people descending on a destination daily during high season—multiply that by three or four if there are other mega-ships in port on the same day—can make local life unbearable. Excess noise, crowds, traffic, and parking all chip away at a destination’s charm when you’ve got 15,000 people walking around snapping photos and visiting restaurants and shops.
This increased passenger load also negatively impacts the environment. Gas emissions from the ship itself lead to poor air quality, and all those taxis and vans picking up passengers for shore excursions also make the air less clean.
With the recent announcement that Amsterdam will soon be off-limits for cruise ships, we’re taking a look at other cities saying “no” to mega cruise ships.
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As anyone who has been to Venice knows, this city is already crowded and tight on space due to being built on a lagoon within the Adriatic Sea. People get around on foot (traversing narrow streets) or by boat (via canals). There simply isn’t enough waterfront to accommodate mega ships. Venice placed a ban on large cruise ships in 2021, ending docking in its historic center or the Giudecca canal. The move came following UNESCO’s threat to include the city on its list of endangered sites, out of fear it might sink.
In February, this Central Coast city laid down the law: it would no longer provide city employees and services to assist passengers at shore, including processing their arrival. The reason is to protect Monterey Bay, one of the country’s marine sanctuaries. Per a city council vote of 3-2, the sentiment to ban cruise ships was clear, although there is a provision that ships can drop their anchors and tender passengers to shore, but so far none have done this. The cost and time to facilitate hiring their own employees at shore gives cruise companies pause, especially when other coastal California cities are open to ships, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco on itineraries to Alaska, California, or Mexico.
Before Galveston became a major port of call for cruise lines, including Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruises, Houston–the country’s fourth-most populous city–had a port. That all changed in 2016 when Houston stopped welcoming cruise ships. Shifting to Galveston had pros and cons: on the one hand, this port is closer to the ocean. But you can’t beat the convenience of a hub city like Houston (George Bush Intercontinental Airport is heavily serviced by United Airlines), making the air-travel journey easier. However, it’s a 90-minute ride from the airport to the Galveston port, or an hour from William P. Hobby Airport.
Charleston, South Carolina
After 2024, one of America’s oldest cities—and a major foodie destination—will no longer welcome cruise ships at the beginning or end of an itinerary. This severely affected Carnival Cruises, which used to claim Charleston as a departure port. In other words, this will cut down on the amount of time cruise ship passengers are hanging out in Charleston—a day, at most, for a port stop; and no pre- or post-cruise time. Many cruise-ship passengers arrive a few days before the cruise or stay a couple of nights after in a hotel, especially if the destination has a lot to offer, as Charleston does.
Bora Bora, Tahiti
While technically still welcoming cruise ships in their waters, there are clear limits on how many can disembark. In late 2021, the French Polynesian government declared that in Bora Bora only 1,200 passengers could get off per day. Because mega cruise ships have a capacity of between 2,500 and 5,000 passengers, this effectively means no Princess Cruises, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, or Celebrity Cruises ships can add Bora Bora to their itineraries
Hoboken, New Jersey
With nearby ports in Manhattan (New York City) and Cape Liberty (Bayonne, New Jersey), there isn’t a need for a third port in the region, although Hoboken welcome cruise ships in the early 1900s. These itineraries were hosted by Holland America Line, which had its headquarters in Hoboken, and began sailing passengers out of this Northern New Jersey city in 1882. Today much smaller ships—for day cruises, including dinners—operate out of Hoboken, which aren’t exactly transatlantic, but do provide a great view of the skyline.
Key West, Florida
Long a popular stop on Riviera Maya, Mexico, and Central America itineraries for ships departing out of Florida, this laid-back city finally put passengers’ key-lime-pie cravings to a halt. In 2022 the city voted to allow only one ship per day. While this is not a total ban, considering that a handful of ships used to dock in Key West daily, this is a major blow for passengers who really want to experience Key West on their sailing.